2952-02-14 – Tales from the Service: Sadek’s Dilemma 

While I will be turning, at least temporarily, to other accounts after this week, Sadek Sherburn’s lengthy story of his time aboard Visitor with a xeno named Kel continues far longer than this. It does not cover the full history of this vessel, but it does cover its first voyage with its new crew, a story that is at the very least well written and believable, if not thoroughly convincing. 

As mentioned previously, I have proof that Sadek is not an entirely reliable narrator, despite his honesty about the concerns about his own role which I have included in this section. Still, I have provided his account the way he intended it, as those parts which he appears to have left out or embellished are only a small fraction of the account, and it is the only one available covering the topic. 

Three days into his lonely eight-day transit into the Sagittarius Gate, Sadek Sherburn realized just how unprepared he was for the role Kel had put him in. True, he’d been a spacer all his life, but half of that life had been spent aboard Thaddeus Wall, doing little but hoping the next asteroid was a unicorn, a find that would buy his way out of the dreary life of converting space rocks into metal ingots for the foundries. None of the skills that had served him in good stead in that life seemed a good fit for this new life aboard Visitor. 

He’d come to that conclusion gradually, by a circuitous route, while scheming about what specialties and skill sets that he and Kel would need in their two other shipmates. Certainly, as he’d said to his new boss, they would need a systems tech, someone who could keep Visitor’s various components functioning as smoothly as they were for many years to come, and who could install new systems in the future. But that left the specialty of their remaining compatriot, and to determine that, Sadek had started to compile the list of skills that he and Kel contributed, only to find that he contributed almost nothing. 

Kel’s own resume was, as far as Sadek knew, almost as thin as Sadek’s own, but Kel had the benefit of being the ship-owner and also the crew’s financier. He could also pilot Visitor and seemed to have some strange powers of persuasion over human spacers – nothing else explained how readily he’d found replacement systems and a fund of credits after he’d had his ship towed away to The Sprawl the first time.  

On the merits, Sadek was unqualified to be aboard Visitor by any metric, except apparently Kel’s own. He was a fair hand at generalist spacer duties, could pilot a launch, and was perhaps better than the average mining-rig pilot at doing his own craft’s repairs, because he’d spent years taking everything apart, cleaning the parts, and putting them back together. 

Beyond that, the only things twenty years of asteroid mining had gotten Sadek were gray hairs above his ears, a sour attitude toward the rest of humanity, and a strong tolerance for terrible chow. At the moment, the gray hairs seemed the most useful of his capabilities, and that only because they would make younger spacers believe him more capable than he really was. Kel didn’t seem likely to want to go into the asteroid mining business, or to have much need for any other sort of launch that Sadek could feasibly pilot. 

Sadek didn’t accomplish much during the remaining five days of his transit except turn a crate of colonist-grade meal bars into a sack full of empty wrappers. Every time he tried to plan out his hiring scheme, he returned inescapably to the fact that no matter who he selected, they would only demonstrate to Kel how badly he’d done with his first hire. He couldn’t even catch up on his reading or on holovid dramas; the problem sapped at his enjoyment of even the most light-hearted material. 

Arrival at The Sprawl briefly distracted him. When Thaddeus Wall had passed through on the heels of Seventh Fleet’s arrival, the waystation had been little more than a commandeered civilian trading post. A few years had turned that seedy little outpost into a metropolis habitat that earned its nickname; the station’s disk-like main sections were encrusted with haphazardly-attached extensions until they were almost buried, and even the more deliberately-planned extensions added later were already beginning to show signs of the boom-town cancer’s metastasis. Satellite facilities jutted out in all directions attached only by networks of semi-rigid support beams that made even approaching the original docking ring an impressive feat of piloting for all but the smallest vessels. 

Fortunately, Sadek was at the controls of a tiny ship; his little mining rig had no trouble finding a berth on the old docking ring deep within the Sprawl’s eponymous structure. Only when the docking cradle’s arms enfolded his little ship and his hands fell from the controls did his mind return from sight-seeing to the problem that had been on his mind for so many days. It was time to see what sort of spacer Kel’s advertisements had attracted. 

Ten minutes and three comms calls later, without even leaving his ship, Sadek had a list of applicants on his console. He was surprised there were so few, especially given the salary range Kel had advertised. Discounting the duplicates and the adventurers of blatantly poor repute, there were less than a dozen candidates to choose from. 

Briefly, Sadek considered hiring a couple of the barely-reformed brigands most spacers would not willingly work with. Though often highly skilled in their own way, this sort of spacer was constantly running afoul of the law and engaging in other high-risk behavior that made them unreliable crewmates. Choosing these might make Sadek himself look like a rock of steady reliability by comparison, but it would also reflect badly on his judgement, since he was the one doing the hiring. In the end, he decided not to only because he couldn’t bear to look too-trusting Kel in the eye and tell him that two ruffians was the best he could do. 

Returning to the eleven reasonably reputable applicants, Sadek quickly eliminated the recently-discharged Marine medic and the grizzled mercenary trooper sergeant from contention. While both of these came highly recommended, neither of them seemed to have a skillset Kel would have reliable use for. True, Kel would probably find both their companies fascinating, but that wasn’t grounds to hire them on. 

Among the remaining nine, another three were easy to exclude on the grounds that their specialty was launch operations. Their skill-sets overlapped – and indeed eclipsed – his own, and neither brought a launch of his own aboard. Having a combat pilot with his own strike-rig would have been quite tempting, but fortunately for Sadek, no such person had applied. 

With his list pared down to six names, Sadek called up the station directory and began to look up contact information. He had a week before Kel returned, plenty of time to meet these applicants before he made any final decisions.